By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The city of Petrópolis is currently in the middle of its annual ‘Natal Imperial’ (Imperial Christmas) celebrations. At under two hours’ drive from Rio de Janeiro, and nestled in the cooler mountainous region, the ‘Cidade Imperial’ (Imperial City) makes for a perfect short break from the sweltering carioca summer.
Running since November 30th, the Imperial Christmas celebrations are set to last until January 20th, 2019, and they are proving as popular as last year, when Petrópolis saw more than 330,000 visitors arriving during the holiday season. This year, the beginning of the festivities tied in with the successful ‘Festival de Petrópolis’ (Petrópolis Film Festival).
“More and more tourist activity is strengthening the municipality of Petrópolis.” comments Nilo Sergio Felix, secretary of tourism. “In 2017, the Imperial Christmas injected R$220 million into the economy, according to the municipality.”
“It was 36 days of programming and, due to its success, this year the party will have 16 more days of activities.” He concludes.
Permanent attractions this year include the light show in the city center’s Praça Dom Pedro II, the ‘Túnel de Luz’ (Tunnel of Light) along Rua 16 de Março, and the ‘Doce Natal’ (Sweet Christmas) which will gather the city’s gastronomy in the historic ‘Palácio de Cristal’ (Crystal Palace).
Other events to look out for include the spectacular ‘Parada Iluminada’ (Illuminated Parade) will take place on the second, third and fourth Sundays of December, and the ‘Noel Runners,’ on Wednesday, December 19th, where hundreds of runners charge through the historic city center dressed as Santa Claus and collecting food for charity as they go.
There are also a host of free concerts occurring during the festive weekends, including U2 tribute act U-one, who will be playing at the Palácio de Cristal on Sunday, December 23rd at 8PM. While the ‘Vila Imperial’ (Imperial Villa) at Praça da Liberdade will host a marching band, an orchestra and the Leticia Laranja Trio on the same day.
Petrópolis is one of many spectacular destinations that are under two hour’s drive from Rio de Janeiro. For those that don’t have a car, the best and cheapest way to get to Petrópolis is by taking one of the buses from Rio’s Rodoviária Novo Rio (R$30) that leave for Petrópolis bus station every 15 minutes.